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March 8, 2007

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Innabuyog Statement on the Occasion of Internation Working Women's Day

Sa Marso 8, Babae, Bata at Bayan, kaisa ang OFW at Pamilya –
Sama-sama Nating Ituloy ang Laban at Isulong ang Pulitika ng Pagbabago!

On this day dedicated to the world’s women, we link our arms and raise clenched fists in unity and conviction to continue the fight for women’s rights. The observance of International Women’s Day was born out of the historic struggles of toiling women around the world in the pursuit of justice and equality. These struggles continue up to this day, as we urge all women in the Cordillera to play a part in this concerted drive towards meaningful social change.

Oppression of Women
All sectors of women bear their own particular burdens and forms of oppression.
• Women peasants sweat under a stunted agricultural economy, oppressed by imperialist policies of agricultural liberalization and globalization.
• Indigenous women face displacement from their ancestral lands due to development aggression and militarization.
• Women laborers work hard and long hours for dirt-low wages under inhumane working conditions and job insecurity due to labor contractualization.
• Urban poor women face demolition of their homes and loss of livelihood as they are pushed to the sidelines by the city government’s development programs.
• Women students scrimp and scrape to pay their tuition and other expenses through various means of self-support.
• Women overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) endure indebtedness and separation from their loved ones as they brave the risks to life, mind, limb and dignity while they work abroad to earn a living and support their families.
• Women and children of all sectors suffer discrimination and often fall victim to violence and abuse.

Economic Crisis
Life is indeed getting more difficult under the present economic crisis, and women bear on their shoulders a big bulk of this burden for survival. Overall, the socio-economic conditions of the people are worsening due to rising prices of basic commodities and services such as food, water, fuel, electricity, shelter, transportation, communication, education and health. The daily cost of living is now P552.40 for a family of six. Poverty incidence was 31.2% in the Cordillera Region (NSCB 2003).These realities belie government claims of a booming economy. The national economy is largely dependent on remittances of OFWs, which amounted to $12 billion in 2006.

Political Manipulation
Meanwhile, our nation is subjected to serious political maneuverings by the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration, with dangerous implications on our lives as women and as Filipino citizens. Congress has just passed the Anti-Terrorism Bill. This could mean that anyone expressing legitimate criticisms against the GMA government could be branded as a terrorist. Even before the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Bill, the government, through the military and its death squads, had already struck down activists, church people, media and the legitimate opposition. The military’s Operation Plan Bantay Laya has resulted in a spate of extrajudicial political killings and disappearances, with more than 832 dead and 193 missing since 2001 to date.

The Philippine – US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) is up for review. The VFA provides for joint military “Balikatan exercises”, which lay fertile conditions for the exploitation and rape of Filipinas by US soldiers. The concrete case of “Nicole” who was raped by Cpl. Daniel Smith in Subic is still a controversial issue after the GMA government, under the cover of night, spirited away the convicted rapist to the safety of the US embassy. Despite the controversy, another round of Balikatan exercises has already started, apparently as a reward for GMA from the US , in exchange for Smith’s custody.

The May elections are just around the corner. We know from experience that elections in the Philippines have always been dirty, ruled by guns, goons and gold. Election results are determined, not by the electorate, but by the rich and powerful. The “Hello Garci” expose’ is just a peek into the unscrupulous dealings of traditional politicians during the elections.

Still impending is GMA’s plan for Charter Change - an attempt to extend her term in power and further clip our civil liberties and sovereignty. She was forced to temporarily shelve her Charter Change bid due to widespread outrage and protests from all sides.

Get Involved. Advance the Politics of Change.
Now is the time to get involved and advance new politics for change. We can either bear our cross in silence, or we can raise our voices, pick up our tools, utensils, pens, paper, what have you, and use these in any way we can to protest against the injustices that women, children and the nation are being made to endure.

The coming election is a good opportunity to advance the new politics of change.

We can use the electoral campaign and all other avenues to educate women and the wider public on the prevailing national situation and on the rights of women, children, OFWs and their families.
We can use the elections to forward our agenda for the protection of women’s rights to include economic security, welfare and basic services, freedom from all forms of violence and discrimination, providing space for women’s participation in all political processes, and justice for victims of violence and human rights violations.
We can challenge candidates and political parties to take up our cause. We can support those with a sincere commitment and a good track record of upholding women’s and people’s rights and welfare.
We can work for greater women’s voice and representation in Congress by supporting the Gabriela Women’s Party, the only sectoral women’s party, towards gaining three congressional seats through the partylist elections.

Social change is necessary to overcome women’s oppression.
Beyond the elections, it is necessary to take part in thoroughgoing social change to end women’s oppression. Women need to organize, educate and mobilize in order to address our concerns and fight for our interests as part of the continuing struggles of toiling women around the world. A woman’s place is in the struggle, alongside other oppressed classes and sectors. We should unite with our fellow-Filipinos to build a Philippine society that truly enjoys sovereignty, democracy, equality, justice and peace. #

Innabuyog-GABRIELA Cordillera, Gabriela Women’s Partylist

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